Yevgeny Dobrenko, a professor at the University of Venice, suggests that Vladimir Putin has increasingly attributed the latest stage of Russian nation-building to the post-WWII Stalinism era.
He sees himself engaged in an extension of that process of forming or revitalizing Russian nationalism, looking back to the period between 1945 and 1953. Dobrenko notes that the term “neo-Stalinism” was used both in the period after World War II and again in Putin’s time, as it began to systemically occur what is now called nation-building.
The Russian nation taking shape after 1945 not only reflected the war more than the revolution but also the victory that became the centrepiece of the new era and of Putin’s thinking.
After 1945, Stalin established a new “new nation,” establishing a soviet nation and state, and institutionalizing it. Dobrenko believes that Putin, like other ambitious leaders, wants to follow in his course and become the father of a new Russian nation.
Historian Dobenko believes that a new nation is not being born in Russia today, but rather at its funeral. The current state is being run by the last Soviet generation, people in their 70s, formed in the Brezhnev era.
The current regime is biologically passing, and for a new nation to be born, it requires the political will and experience of another generation, raised later and formed in the Gorbachev era. The current regime is falling into a retro-utopia, and the collapse of the Soviet system did not create a new nation.
The leaders of the country, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, could not create it. Then came Putin, who turned out to be an empty figure with no ideas beyond the creation of oligarchic capitalism. Putin has not occupied himself with state construction or nation-building, drawing from the Soviet past, particularly from the late Stalin period.
However, the regime will not die with Putin’s death, and there will be more people of his age and inclinations around. This will create the possibility of the creation of a new Russian nation, not based on late Stalinism but on something else.